Alexander Runciman was a Scottish painter of historical and mythological subjects. He spent five years in Rome before returning to Edinburgh where in 1772 he became master of the Trustees’ Academy. This miniature pencil drawing by John Brown was created in 1785, the year of Runciman’s sudden death. Brown was therefore keen to point out that he had drawn his sitter ‘ad vivam’ – from the life. Runciman’s hands rest on a book entitled ‘Ossian’: James MacPherson’s translations of ancient Gaelic poetry supposedly by the third-century Scottish bard. Several years earlier Runciman had decorated parts of Sir John Clerk’s Penicuik House with large-scale murals. His famous ceiling of ‘Ossian’s Hall’ depicted narrative scenes from these poems. Sadly all murals were destroyed in a fire in 1899.